June 30, 2009

Toys are Everywhere! Help!

My header reads, "Raising Two Very Noisy Boys in a Very Tiny House?" Well, every word of it is true. My boys are noisy. My house is tiny. 900-square-feet tiny. That might not be so bad if it didn't also have a poor layout and serve as shelter for me, two energetic boys, a 5' 11" Hubby, a 70 lb mutt and a large Maine Coon. I can depend on bumping elbows or butts with someone at any given moment.

The biggest challenge of such a small house is keeping everything organized. My husband is a (dare I say) pack rat. I, however, should be on a first name basis with the guy outside our Goodwill Donation Station. Between Hubby's ski gear from 1990, the boys' love of large stuffed animals and tiny toy cars and a very limited amount of storage, I spend a lot of time thinking (stressing) about organization.

See that? That's the play area in our basement TV room. That little pine box against the wall...that's the toy organizer. Do you see something wrong with this picture? I bought this ingenious Ikea creation hoping that, not only would my boys have a place for their toys, but that they would actually put them away too. This is only a small portion of their toys...and they don't play in this room that often. But somehow it usually looks like this.

I want it to look like this!

Ahhhh...better, right?

I've tried different organizers. I've tried labels. I've tried giant baskets. I've tried to make clean up time fun with songs, games and rewards. I have even tried threats, "Help Mommy clean up or no bedtime story tonight!" But the only thing that seems to work is Mommy doing it all herself.

I want to teach my children responsibility and how to respect their belongings. I want them to realize that when you stand on Mr. Potato Head's glasses and break them, I'm not going to buy you another pair. Is it too early to expect them to participate in cleaning up (they are 3.5 years and 19 months)? How do you get your kids to help keep things picked up?

June 29, 2009

Dish of the Week: Tilapia with Zucchini and Tomatoes

It doesn't get much easier than this fish recipe...and I've been known to kill a good piece of fish. Cooking with parchment paper sounds fancy, but it's not. And it makes clean up a whole lot simpler. We buy frozen tilapia fillets and have always had good luck with them. You could certainly use fresh tilapia for this recipe, but make sure you cut back on the baking time.

Tilapia with Zucchini and Tomatoes

2 tilapia fillets (frozen)
2 zucchini, coarsely chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking dish with large sheet of parchment paper (big enough to fold up fish and vegetables). Lay fish on top of parchment paper and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Cover fillets with zucchini, tomatoes and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and season with a little more salt and pepper. Wrap the fish in the parchment by first folding in the two short sides and then the two longer sides...creating a pouch. It does not need to be snug. Bake for 30 - 45 minutes. Fish is fully cooked when it flakes with a fork.

Serve with steamed rice.

Here's another veggie dish you'll love!

June 26, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Pride, Pop Tarts & that stupid purple dinosaur

#23 I buy kids' treats and never share them with my kids. Right now, actually, I'm eating a Pop Tart while the boys are napping. They are going boys and shouldn't eat sugary snacks. But I'm an adult...so there!

#24 I trained Peanut to say "yuck" every time he sees Barney-the-stupid-purple-dinosaur. But I think it's going to backfire on me. Yesterday, when asked which show he wanted to watch while I made dinner, he sarcastically suggested, "How about we watch...BARNEY!" I told him I appreciated his sarcastic whit, but that instead we would watch something else.

#25 Sprout is only 19 months old, but very opinionated, stubborn, bossy, fussy & particular about everything. He is not easy-going like Peanut. He knows what he wants and he is not ashamed to let everyone know. As annoying as it can be, it makes me proud.

Read more of Mommy's confessions

June 23, 2009

I Love My Beco Baby Carrier!

Recently I told you about my love for my fleece Hotslings pouch (even typing that I feel a little sad that I can't use it anymore). When our days with the pouch were numbered, I started doing some research on what might be a good replacement. I wasn't a fan of ring slings. Some people love them, but I just never got the hang of them. Plus, Sprout was getting a little heavy for a one-shoulder carry. I also considered woven wraps. There are beautiful wraps out there that can be very comfortable and can hold a lot more weight than the Moby wrap. But I never took to the Moby & was afraid I wouldn't like the woven wraps either. But since I did like the Ergo (the few times I tried with Peanut) I decided to look into some other soft structured carriers.

I still had my Babyhawk, but really wanted something that I could put on even faster than a mei tai. I anticipated trying to get Sprout in and out of a carrier while also needing to tend to Peanut. The Ergo was nice, but I wanted something a little more girly. I narrowed my search and eventually decided on the Beco Baby Carrier. I found a barely used "4th generation" on TheBabywearer.com.

My beautiful Sky Temple Beco was even prettier in person than it was in photos. It was easy to put on, easy to adjust and I could actually get it more snug than the Ergo. Being able to tighten the straps just a little bit more made a world of difference. I was able to get Sprout closer to my body, thus putting less strain on my back and neck. It was so cozy and comfortable!

Sprout is now 19 months old and I still wear him in the Beco almost daily. It lives in my car and I can pop him on my back in a matter of seconds. My only complaint about the Beco (at least with the 4th generation version) is the hood. The hood is detachable and is stored in a pocket when not being used. The trouble is, I never seem to know when Sprout will fall asleep. Then when I need the hood to hold up his sleepy little head, I need someone to help me put it on. So in that respect, I like the Ergo hood more since it's attached and easy to grab whenever you need it.

But overall, I think it has been the best carrier for us and I have recommended it to several people. I know Beco continues to make improvements on their carriers, so check out their website for the newest products and features.

Happy Baby Wearing!

Dish of the Week: Pasta Primavera

You can make this dish with any fresh vegetables you have on hand. I just happened to have some left over broccoli, cauliflower & baby carrots from a party, so that is what I used.

Creamy Pasta Primavera
1 lb uncooked pasta
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup baby carrots
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
1.5 cups cream or half & half
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup chopped basil
dash of freshly ground nutmeg
salt and pepper
grated parmesan cheese

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Salt generously to season pasta. Add pasta to water and cook for 2 minutes. Add carrots to pasta & water and cook for two more minutes. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet. Cook onions until tender. Add garlic and cook one more minute. Add cream, butter, a little salt & pepper, nutmeg and chopped basil to onions. Cook until heated through. To the pasta & carrots, add broccoli and cauliflower and cook for the rest of the pasta cook time (go by directions on package or until al dente). When pasta is cooked, drain pasta & veggies and toss with cream sauce. Top with parmesan.

Sorry for the picture from my phone...I didn't have my new memory card for my camera yet.

June 22, 2009

Library Picks: Pigs & Produce

Toot and Puddle - You Are My Sunshine by Holly Hobbie
While at the library recently, another mom said that if my kids like Olivia we should really check out Toot and Puddle. So check out Toot and Puddle we did. Peanut was so into the story, I was shocked that he didn't make the expected fart joke over one of the character names. Not to mention that my Hubby has yet to make the expected joke about where Toot and Puddle live (Woodcock Pocket...no seriously). But I digress. This is a very sweet story about Puddle trying to cheer up his dear friend, Toot, who is feeling blue. He tries everything he can and nothing works. Eventually a big rain storm helps little Toot feel like himself again. I love the message in this book that everyone gets sad sometimes and there isn't always a reason for it. Sometimes you just have to wait for the rain to pass. We will definitely be checking out more Toot (teehee) and Puddle.

Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert
Sprout pulled this book off the shelf and it was instantly a winner in my mind. A colorfully illustrated book that teaches the alphabet AND a love of fruits and vegetables. Ka-ching! Peanut is going through an "I hate anything green" stage and Sprout, well...Sprout does with his brother does. I love that this book makes healthier foods seem fun and appealing. Instead of C being for cookie, C is for carrot, cabbage, cherries, etc. Delicious!

June 19, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Oops!

#20 I forgot to feed my kids breakfast on Monday of this week. I did. They got their usual snack around 10:00 AM, but it wasn't until they were melting down at 11:00 that I thought, "Hmmm...did we eat breakfast?" So much for the most important meal of the day!

#21 It annoys the hell out of me when Peanut chews with his mouth open. I fear that he'll be 25 and I'll still be saying, "Please chew with your mouth closed."

#22 When ever Sprout hurts himself he always points his finger at me so I can kiss it. The other day he did this and when I kissed his finger I instantly spelled poop. He didn't hurt himself...he was trying to tell me he had poop on his finger. Gross. So gross.

More! More!

June 15, 2009

Dish of the Week: Ooey Gooey Chocolate Birthday Cake

It's a tradition in my family to make a rich gooey chocolate cake for every birthday. The kids are the only exception so far because Peanut has always requested "funfetti" cake and some weird colored frosting (he asked for bright yellow last year). But for as long as I can remember, my mom always made this cake for me, my dad & herself on our birthdays. But really...why wait for a birthday to make it? IT IS TOO GOOD! Hubby says the best thing about this cake is having it for breakfast the next morning with a hot cup of espresso.

(I lost my camera's memory card, so we had to take a picture with Hubby's iPhone.)

Ooey Gooey Chocolate Birthday Cake
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 box instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/8 - 1/4 cup water or milk
2 - 3 eggs*
1/2 cup oil*

Mix cake mix according to directions on box *(most call for 2 - 3 eggs and about 1/2 cup of oil). Add marshmallows, chocolate chips & pudding mix. Mix well, but don't overmix. Slowly add water until batter is smooth, but not runny. Poor into cake pan (or pans) and cook according to box directions. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. It may need to cook a little longer since you are adding a lot of moisture to the batter with the pudding. Remove from oven and cool on cooling rack. Once cake has cooled, frost with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

8oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. Add sugar gradually. Add cocoa powder gradually and mix until smooth.

Perfect on my Ooey Gooey Chocolate Birthday Cake!

June 11, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Totally Gross

There are just certain things my kids do that totally gross me out, no matter how much I love them!

#17 Boogers and snot make me gag every time. I wipe butts all day, I've cleaned up plenty of puke, I've gone to work with spit-up in my hair, but I just can not handle boogers. Peanut must know this because he loves to bring me nasty green boogs and announce, "Here, Mommy. I don't have anywhere to put my booger." Bleck.

#18 Two words: Raisin poop. When Peanut was an infant, a friend warned me that raisins do not come out the way they go in. At the time I thought it was a weird thing to warn a new mom. But, ewwww! He was right! It's just not fair that I give my kids healthy organic raisins as a snack and am paid back with diaper grapes.

#19 I have a high threshold for the grossness of my own children. However, I have a very active gag reflex with the grossness of other children. I have a friend (you know who you are) that has a thing with vomit. When it happens she has to tell me about it...in detail. I'm starting to gag just thinking about it. Please...if your child grosses you out, it's going to gross me out times ten.

What do your kids do that gross you out?

More Mommy Confessions. Share yours!

June 10, 2009

Look...No Hands!

Do you remember when I said there are a few mommy items I have spent money on and never regretted it? Well I think this one might take the cake. I've always tried to follow the ideals of attachment parenting, but am a firm believer in the benefits of babywearing. With Peanut I struggled with finding the perfect carrier for us and eventually settled on a Babyhawk mei tai carrier. It was cute, comfy & even Hubby could use it if he wanted. When I became pregnant with Sprout, carrying Peanut became difficult. I found a gently used Ergo baby carrier for Hubby so he could take over babywearing duties for awhile...well, okay...toddler-wearing duties. I think he used it until Peanut was about 2 years old.

When Sprout was born I had a little stash of different carriers to try. I was convinced that this time around I'd be able to comfortably wear my newborn. Plus, I now had a toddler to chase after and needed a way to handle both kids without losing my mind. We still had the Ergo, plus my Babyhawk mei tai and a Moby wrap. But the 1st place winner coming out of the gate was my sweet, soft & cozy Hotslings fleece pouch. It fit like a glove, was nice and warm and Sprout would fall asleep in the pouch no matter where we were or what I was doing. Sometimes just seeing me come toward him with the pouch in my hand would calm him down. I was on maternity leave for just over three months, and I think I wore Peanut in the Hotslings pouch every single day during that time.

This is how much I loved that pouch sling...I had to borrow a stock photo because I couldn't take a photo of mine. Why? Well, my dear friend Donna made an adorable stuffed animal out of it as a 1st birthday for Sprout. I was so attached to it I couldn't bare to sell it or give the pouch away. So now we have Karter Kangaroo to remind me (and maybe Sprout) of those early babywearing days.

I haven't seen the fleece pouches on the Hotslings site for a long time, but I know you can find them on ebay. But, in my opinion, the best place to look for your perfect baby carrier is TheBabyWearer.com. There are wonderful forums there where you can ask questions and read some FAQs. You can also purchase gently used carriers from moms who are moving on from babywearing or want to get rid of something that just isn't working for them.

Next time I'll share my favorite toddler carrier!

Update from Hotslings via Twitter: "We do have the fleece slings back up on the site for now... They're under the sale category."

June 9, 2009

Dish of the Week: Blueberry Cloud Pancakes

Doesn't the name just sound lovely? These are my favorite pancakes! I've made them for breakfast and dinner. I think I got the original recipe from a friend in our baby group, but have tweaked it a lot to fit my family's preferences. The blueberries really make these babies pop, but I've also used banana slices and chocolate chips. No matter what, the most important thing is to use real maple syrup. Do not...DO NOT eat these with that high fructose corn syrup garbage in the lady-shaped squeeze bottle!

Blueberry Cloud Pancakes

6 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 cup whole milk
1/8 cup sour cream
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup cottage cheese, drained
1 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

In a blender mix the eggs, oil, vanilla, milk & sour cream. Add the flour & baking soda, then mix again. Add drained cottage cheese and pulse blender a couple of times...just enough to incorporate.

Poor batter on to hot greased griddle. Sprinkle each pancake with several blueberries. Flip when bubbles start to rise. Cook until golden brown. Serve with warm maple syrup.

June 8, 2009

Library Picks: Preschool & Jazz

All Winners This Week!

My Preschool by Anne Rockwell
What a cute and simple primer for a future preschooler! Peanut starts preschool in the fall. He is equally excited and nervous. He loves to read this book and talk about all of the things the kids are doing like painting, circle time, etc.. I think the best part of the story is when two boys have a squabble over a toy, they get mad at each other, but are friends again within minutes. Especially for my ultra-sensitive little guy, I love that this book shows you can argue with your friends and still be friends. Any little one who is anxious about starting preschool will be comforted by this story.

This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt
This book is commonly known in my house as "Jass Maaaa!" It is Sprout's favorite book and has been for almost a year. I'm not sure what it is about this book, but both boys love it! The illustrations are beautiful and the story is fun to read. We like to sing it to the tune of "This Old Man" to make it more fun. Each page features a famous jazz musician from Charlie Parker to "Fats" Domino. Every time we read this book, Peanut's job is to find the little gray mouse hidden on every page. This is the kind of book I'll buy for future birthday presents.

Check out more Library Picks!

June 6, 2009

Baby Book Rivalry

I am an only child. I clearly remember, at a very young age, my cousin complaining that her older brother had a big baby book that their mom had filled with photos and milestones. As the second born, her baby book was much smaller, had very few photos and many empty spaces where milestone markers should be. At that time I made a mental note that I would never do that to my children. My children would have equally wonderful and detailed baby books.

Peanut's baby book was carefully tended to for his first two years of life. Every new tooth, new food and "baby's 1st" was written down including date, where we were & sometimes photos. I even had a special section for the handouts from each pediatrician visit. I imagined that the adult Peanut would find much joy in this book when he had children some day.

Before Sprout was born I spent a great amount of time shopping for the perfect baby book. I eventually decided on an Eric Carle baby book that came in a little box and had brightly colored pages with all the beloved Carle characters. I loved the different milestone sections, the numerous spots for ultrasound photos, baby photos, etc. In the first couple of months I was pretty good about updating things that happened...first smile, rolling over and first Christmas. Then I started just writing things down on post-it notes as they happened and shoving them in the box. Around Sprout's first birthday I pulled the baby book out only to be overwhelmed by a pile of post-its that said things like "10/1 tooth lower left front" and "Sept ? clapped". It was a official. I had done exactly what I promised myself I'd never do.

A better mom might have reinstated her promise and worked harder at documenting her baby's special moments. I, however, have decided just to let this one go. Maybe one day I'll take the time to fill in all of the blank lines. Or maybe he won't care if his baby book has entries like "Summer 2009 - Noticed a few more teeth in there." Have I created a future rivalry between siblings? Or is it just a symptom of, what I like to call, Second Child Syndrome?

Other reasons I will not be awarded Mother of the Year.

June 5, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Falls and Fridays

#14 I love hearing Sprout wake up from his nap. When he's ready to get up he says, "All done. All done. All done..." until I go get him.

#15 Sprout keeps falling off the couch, but there is no way to keep him off of it. Half the time I'm scared to death that he's going to seriously hurt himself. The other half I'm hoping the next fall will teach him how not to fall.

#16 I always know when it's Friday. When Hubby walks in the door at the end of the day, I'm always tempted to grab my purse and run out the door. I've been known to meet him on the porch and say "I'm going out. I'll be back before bed time."

Check out some more Mommy Confessions!

June 2, 2009

Dish of the Week: My Mom's Taco Soup

Are you sensing a theme yet? We really do eat things that aren't Mexican themed. I promise my next Dish of the Week will be anything but. However, this week I'm sticking with the theme and sharing my mom's taco soup. This recipe freezes really well and tastes even better the next day. In our house, tortilla chips are a must with this soup. This time I garnished with crumbled tortilla chips, homemade guacamole, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. Both boys DEVOURED it!

My Mom's Taco Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
1 package taco seasoning (or make your own! See my taco seasoning recipe below.)
2 15oz cans diced tomatoes
1 15oz can tomato sauce
1 15oz can corn kernels, drained
1 15oz can kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans
4 - 6 cups chicken stock

Heat oil in a stock pot on medium/high heat. Saute onion until soft. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add beef and cook until browned. Drain fat. Add taco seasoning, tomatoes, tomato sauce, corn & beans. Stir to mix well. Add broth. We like our soup chunky, so I only use about 4 to 5 cups. But use 6 if you like your soup with more liquid. Bring soup to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Garnish with shredded cheese, tortilla chips, sour cream, avocado, olives, hot sauce, etc.

Taco Seasoning (minus the MSG!)

1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Mix together and store in air tight container.